The video ends with the lurid image of the stabbing victim bleeding and dying on the ground. “Every apprehension matters,” a message on screen reads. “Do you know who got away?”
The message fades to a Fox News headline about the 2015 killing of Kate Steinle in San Francisco, followed by a rapid-fire cascade of other news clips and headlines about killings linked to immigrants illegally present in the United States.
The Border Patrol’s logo appears in the final scene, metallic and glinting. “Protecting America Everyday,” it says. “Honor First.”
Since then senior aides in his administration, including White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, have directed Homeland Security communications officials to highlight crimes committed by immigrants. An ample body of research shows that immigrants actually commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans.
Cecilia Barreda, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman, said the video was produced “in an effort to highlight criminal apprehensions across the Southwest border.”
“The initial intent was to inform the workforce and it was subsequently determined that it would also serve to inform the community and citizens on the nature of the work and dangers faced by border patrol and the community at large,” Barreda said in a statement to The Washington Post.
“Border Patrol agents who participated in the production of this video are assigned to a communications role, and perform these duties on a collateral basis,” Barreda said. “CBP is committed to informing the public on our mission and challenges and stands behind using our law enforcement personnel in telling the CBP story.”
According to the YouTube post, “The Gotaway” was produced by the Border Patrol’s El Centro sector, which includes California’s Imperial Valley. Under Trump, the Border Patrol has expanded its messaging efforts with a strategic communications initiative that has provided video equipment and training to border agents working in the field.
Those agents do not receive mass communication or media ethics training, according to CBP officials. The YouTube channel, created in March, typically features more conventional productions showing agent training activities or commemorations.
But the use of social media and YouTube has put cameras and communications channels in the hands of more agents who can spend their time working on video productions, instead of patrol duties, some officials have groused.
“The Gotaway” starts with a scene of two agents listening to a news report about a killing by an undocumented migrant in California.
“Man, that’s the second one in less than a week,” one of the agents says.
“This is getting out of hand,” his partner replies.
The radio then crackles with the voice of another agent reporting a vehicle with a “commercial vehicle load.” The camera cuts away to a drone shot with the flashing lights of a patrol vehicle in pursuit.
The agents stop a carload of migrants with a smuggler who tells his passengers, “We’re not getting caught today!” After the doors fly open, the vehicle’s passengers run off into the brush, with agents in pursuit.
One of the migrants is seen outrunning the agents. His silhouette fades into the flickering blue light until the screen goes dark. Then the man emerges along a commercial street and slips into the shadows of a parking lot, where he spots another man next to a dumpster talking on his cellphone and unloading some crates. The escaped migrant approaches him from behind.
“¿Tienes feria (Do you have any money?),” he asks, using a Mexican slang term.
The camera cuts to the migrant’s tattooed arm and hand. He flicks open a knife, then grabs his victim from behind. The camera then shows the victim writhing on the ground, his white shirt blotched with red stains, as the attacker grabs the man’s phone and flees.